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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Omega Psi Phi’s 47th 2nd Vice Grand Basileus Ryan Thomas

In an effort to shed light on the emerging young leaders assuming pivotal roles within Black fraternities and sororities on the national and international level in 2024, Watch The Yard is highlighting Ryan Thomas who serves as Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.’s 47th 2nd Vice Grand Basileus.

A Spring ’20 initiate of the Sigma Chapter of the fraternity at Michigan State University, Thomas holds the highest undergraduate leadership position in the fraternity.

In our conversation, we explore Thomas’ position, aspirations, and the significance of leadership within his fraternity.

What motivated you to take on a role at the national level of your fraternity?

I’ve always seen myself as a leader, understanding that leadership often begins with following. Before assuming the role of 2nd Vice Grand Basileus, I served as the 2nd Vice District Representative for the 10th district. In this capacity, I had the opportunity to work closely with the preceding undergraduate leadership team. Witnessing their accomplishments and dedication served as a powerful motivation for me to continue their legacy and propel our organization forward. I believed in my vision for the undergraduate body, one that would elevate us to new heights, and I was determined to bring it to fruition.

What specific initiatives is the undergraduate council helping head up this year and how do you think they will improve local community or the broader Black community?

One of the primary focuses for our team has been the “Brother You’re on My Mind” initiative, a newly mandated program centered on mental health. Mental health has emerged as a significant concern in the Black community, often disregarded or minimized. The college experience can be particularly stressful for individuals, and it’s crucial to recognize that people may be facing challenges unknown to others. This initiative provides a safe and supportive environment for brothers to share their experiences and seek support from one another.

What made you want to pledge Omega Psi Phi?

During my childhood, I would often visit my older sister at Michigan State University. It was during these visits that I was first introduced to Greek life and had the opportunity to meet the men of Omega. They embraced me like I was their own younger brother and gave me tours of the campus. Spending time with them during my visits left a lasting impression, and I was inspired to learn more about their fraternity. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to become a member of Omega Psi Phi.

What is it about your specific district that makes it so unique?

The 10th District, often known as the “Talented 10th,” boasts some of the most accomplished individuals I’ve had the privilege to know. We take pride in our versatility and the diverse talents of our members. Spanning the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, our district encompasses a wide range of expertise and skills. It’s this richness of talent and passion for excellence that sets us apart and drives our collective success.

How is your work on the national level providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?

Our efforts on the national level have offered numerous growth opportunities for undergraduate brothers. We not only assist them with undergraduate affairs but also focus on preparing them for life after graduation. Throughout our international summit and tenure, we have organized career fairs, resume workshops, passport services, leadership development programs, and more for undergraduate brothers. Continuously providing resources ensures that our brothers not only benefit during their college years but also throughout their entire lives.

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie between undergraduate and alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

The most effective strategy I’ve discovered is fostering open communication. Establishing transparent communication channels enables graduate and undergraduate members to gain a deeper understanding of one another. One approach to achieving this is through collaborative event planning and mutual attendance at each other’s meetings to provide support. This not only strengthens bonds but also encourages a culture of inclusivity and shared goals within the organization.

What advice would you give to aspiring undergrad leaders within Black fraternities and sororities who may aspire to take on roles of leadership on the national level?

My advice to aspiring undergraduate leaders is to prioritize building a solid foundation within your chapter and district before aiming for national leadership positions. Serving at the chapter and district levels allows you to gain valuable experience and develop essential skills that will set you up for success at the national level. Take the time to grow and hone your leadership abilities, and lead by example by making a positive impact on those around you. By starting small and focusing on making a difference within your immediate community, you’ll build the necessary skills and confidence to excel on a broader scale at the national level.

How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?

Mentorship has been a cornerstone in shaping my identity and guiding my journey. I rely on my mentors for invaluable advice and perspective, allowing me to approach situations with a fresh mindset. Their unwavering support and trustworthiness have been constants in my life, whether it’s navigating school, work, or personal challenges.

Among those who have made a significant impact are my Dean Jordan Claxton, my current District Representative Sean Long, and immediate past District Representative Derrick Ivory. Additionally, numerous past 2nd Vice Grands have assumed a big brother role, offering their support and guidance as I navigate my current position. Their mentorship has been instrumental in my growth and development, shaping me into the person I am today.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

I believe Watch The Yard plays a vital role in Black Greekdom. It serves as a crucial platform for representing and raising awareness of Black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs). Often, people are unaware of the positive initiatives and impactful work being done within these organizations. Watch The Yard helps bridge this gap by shining a spotlight on the successes and achievements of BGLOs, amplifying their voices, and providing additional visibility. This contribution preserves the legacy of past accomplishments and ensures continued recognition for the meaningful work that BGLOs do in their communities.

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

Our fraternity motto, “Friendship is essential to the soul,” resonates deeply with me and serves as a constant reminder of the value of the connections I’ve made. Since joining, I’ve had the privilege of forming countless meaningful relationships with my brothers, each one adding richness and depth to my life. I truly cherish the bonds that I have forged and I know the friendships that I’ve built will always be worthwhile.

Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?

Brotherhood is an unbreakable bond. Your brother is a steadfast presence you can rely on, regardless of the situation. They stand by you as your greatest supporter, trusted advisor, and loyal friend.